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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicator: Fishing Vessel and Crew Safety

Key Findings

From 2000 through 2013, the number of fatalities each year in the Northeast multispecies groundfish trawl fishery varied between zero and 8. At least one fatality occurred in 12 of the 14 years. Prior to the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, a total of 34 fatalities happened from 2000 through 2009. Only 3 fatalities occurred in the first 3 years of the Sector Program (2010-2012), but 5 fatalities occurred in 2013.

Interactive Charts


This indicator shows the number and type of fatalities reported on fishing vessels, as a component of local community effects of the catch shares program.


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program (2002-2009)

There were a total of 34 fatalities related to the multispecies trawl fishery from 2000 to 2009, ranging from 8 in 2000 to zero in 2002 and 2003, for an average of 3.4 per year. The majority (26) were attributed to vessel disasters (e.g., capsizings and sinkings), and the others to falls overboard (1) and onboard injuries (7). Geographically, fatalities occurred off the southern coast of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Fishermen from vessels with home ports in Maine had the highest total number of fatalities from 2000 to 2009 with 10. In 2000 alone, 5 fishermen from vessels with home ports in Maine died in 3 vessel disasters. In 2007, a disaster involving a vessel from New Bedford, Massachusetts claimed the lives of 4 fishermen.

During Catch Share Program 

Following implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, the number of fatalities per year has generally been low, with an average of 2 per year. One fatality (a fall overboard) occurred in 2010, and no fatalities were reported in 2011. In 2012, one fatality resulted from an onboard injury and vessel disaster, respectively. The low numbers of fatalities ended in 2013, when 5 fishermen died in 4 separate incidents, including 2 weather-related vessel disasters. Of the 8 fatalities from 2010 to 2013, 3 were fishermen from vessels based in Massachusetts.

Data Gaps and Limitations

Data provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are updated annually and are specific to the multispecies groundfish fishery. While each fatality is attributed to a particular fishery, the variable nature of commercial fishing could potentially result in misattributions, such as if a vessel was transitioning between fisheries or if an injury occurred onshore. While fatality information is well tracked, the data are limited in that they do not include non-fatal injuries.

Information Sources

NIOSH. 2014. Personal communication with Devin Lucas, Injury Epidemiologist.

“Fishing Vessel and Crew Safety” data were provided by the Center for Disease Control National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) through a data request. Data provided by NIOSH included fatality data by state, fishery, and gear type, with latitude and longitude of the incident. Those incidents identified as occurring to vessels engaged in the groundfish fishery were selected for inclusion.

Updated: August 2015

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